NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – A major astronomical event is set to take place this Wednesday morning, the “Super Flower Blood Moon” total lunar eclipse. Here’s what you need to know about the cosmic phenomenon.
What is a “Supermoon”?
A supermoon is when a full moon occurs at the same time the moon reaches its closest point in orbit to the Earth – also known as the perigee. When that happens, the moon appears brighter and larger than a regular full moon.
May’s supermoon is the largest of the year.
Why is it called a “flower moon”?
The naming of the monthly full moon’s dates to the Old Farmer’s Almanac publishing the terms back in the 1930s. The Flower Moon is attributed to the Algonquin tribes who called it the Flower Moon as the moon came in late spring when flowers would often grow.
What causes a “blood moon”?
It’s called a blood moon because of the reddish hue it takes on during the eclipse, according to NASA.
“You see this, this beautiful, deep red color, they’re often referred to as blood moons, because they go back hundreds of years ago, nobody really knew what was happening,” said Dr. Billy Teets, Director of the Vanderbilt Dyer Observatory.
Dr. Teets said the blood moons during a lunar eclipse would sometimes be viewed as an omen, “but that deep red color is just because earth has an atmosphere.”
The color comes from sunlight filtering through Earth’s atmosphere as the moon passes through the planet’s shadow over several hours.
What is a total lunar eclipse?
A total lunar eclipse occurs when the Earth, positioned directly between the moon and sun, blocks the moon from sunlight.
“The moon’s orbit is bringing it into the shadows of the earth,” said Dr. Teets. “Earth has two shadows, it’s an outer lighter shadow, where if you were standing on the moon, you would see, if you were in that outer lighter shadow, you would see the sun partially blocked by the earth. And then about an hour later, the moon starts to move into that deeper Inner Shadow where if you were in that shadow, you see the sun totally obscured.”
The lunar eclipse happens roughly twice a year.
Is it safe to watch a lunar eclipse?
Unlike solar eclipses, it’s safe to view a lunar eclipse.
The eclipse will only be partially visible in Middle Tennessee and Southern Kentucky on Wednesday morning.
According to NASA, the entire eclipse will last about five hours, from 08:47:39 UTC (Coordinated Universal Time) which would be 3:47 a.m. CST to 13:49:41 UTC. The peak is at 11:19:52 UTC and will last about 14 minutes.
You can also check out the Virtual Telescope Project, which will have a live feed starting at 5 a.m. CST on May 26.
But if you miss it, there is a nearly total eclipse coming later this year on November 19.
“That one actually starts just after midnight for folks here in Nashville,” said Dr. Teets. “So if you’re an early riser or a night owl, then you’ll be able to see the entirety of that eclipse.”